Tough Road to the Enterprise

Palm showcases third-party software, but delayed launches, corporate split hampering strategy.

Hoping to best Microsoft Corp. in the battle for the enterprise, handheld device maker Palm Inc. will use its developers conference next week to showcase third-party software aimed at corporate users. However, Palms internal turmoil may hamper that drive.

Without a CEO since October, Palm is dealing with delayed product launches and a split into two subsidiaries that has fractured the companys enterprise strategy. Many of the companys development partners are frustrated—even those with new products to unveil at the PalmSource show.

"[Palm OS 5.0] has been a moving target," said Gerardo Dada, senior wireless marketing manager at Metrowerks, a Motorola Inc. subsidiary in Austin, Texas. Dada said the operating system was due last year but is still not out. "Palm gives us information little by little," he said.

Metrowerks next week will introduce an enterprise edition of its CodeWarrior development software for Palm OS. The software will include tools geared toward database development, including software from Sybase Inc. and ThinAirApps Inc., which was recently purchased by Palm. The new CodeWarrior software features a tool set that enables developers to build conduit applications for Palm OS and Windows, as well as a new C++ framework that has functions for lists, databases and scroll bars.

In addition, Metrowerks will preview CodeWarrior for ARM, which takes advantage of ARM processors in Palm OS 5.0. Other vendors to showcase enterprise solutions at PalmSource include IBM, RSA Security Inc. and Siebel Systems Inc.

In addition to the rollouts, Palm officials promise to present a clear road map for Palm OS 5.0, including plans for improved security and virtual private networks. The conference will also feature an enterprise seminar, a first for the company.

"Theres this weird tightrope I have to walk, now that Im a separate platform vendor," said Michael Mace, chief competitive officer at Palm, in Santa Clara, Calif. "From an [operating system] standpoint, you want to make sure youre on standards lists. But specific sales of solutions to IS managers—thats on the hardware side."

At the show, Palm will showcase hardware from multiple licensees including the new wireless device from Palm. The long-awaited i705, expected out this week, is geared toward always-on wireless access of corporate e-mail and alerts users when a message is received.

Even with this enterprise focus, users regard Microsoft as the enterprise choice, especially for large deployments. "We are finding the corporations that have developed a policy on handhelds and mobile computing tend to lean toward Pocket PC," said Beth Stallings, vice president of sales at Power By Hand Inc., a Nashville, Tenn., company that specializes in training companies to use handheld computers.